After a week filled with big games and several upsets, the NFL Draft landscape is beginning to take shape. Which standouts from this past week's college football games could be in play for the Steelers? It is time to find out.
During the college football season, I will have weekly “stock reports,” breaking down everything that transpired in the previous week of college action. We will look at players at any position that either helped or hurt their stock based upon that week’s performance, but we will give a more extensive look at players that play a position the Steelers will be in need of next offseason. Those positions may fluctuate as the Steelers’ 2021 season unfolds and we learn more about what this team truly needs to address in the offseason.
As it stands right now, cornerback, guard, wide receiver, and quarterback seem to be the most likely needs. Thus, a noteworthy performance by a player at one of those positions is more likely to be recognized in these articles than an impressive showing by a player at a position the Steelers are already loaded at.
Here are the highest of highs and lowest of lows from the second full week of college action.
Hank Bachmeier — QB — Boise State
Boise State handed UTEP its first loss of the season on Saturday, and Bachmeier was the biggest reason they came away victorious, completing 17 of 24 passes for 340 yards and 2 touchdowns. Bachmeier came on strong at the beginning of his rookie season and was getting hyped as a future first round pick, but after taking a step back at the end of 2019 and the majority of 2020, the hype has diminished, and Bachmeier has become an afterthought when it comes to the 2022 quarterback class. However, big numbers will make people take notice. If Bachmeier can back this game up with a strong performance against Oklahoma State this Saturday, draft pundits may begin to pay more attention to him again.
Lecitus Smith — G — Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech has begun the 2021 season on fire, and the offensive line has been the catalyst of their success. I was a big fan of Lecitus Smith before this season, but his early play in 2021 has been impressive nonetheless. Smith is an extremely athletic guard who has manhandled his opponents in the running game. His physicality is off the charts, and his experience in Virginia Tech’s zone blocking scheme would make him an ideal fit for what Adrian Klemm is looking for. Trai Turner is not under contract past this season, which means that guard is a position the Steelers may need to address next year. Keep an eye on Smith, as I could see him skyrocketing up draft boards. It would not shock me if he is selected inside the top 50 picks next April.
Verone McKinley III — FS/CB — Oregon
McKinley is a safety for Oregon who can also fill in at cornerback, and he made a name for himself on Saturday against Ohio State, recording six tackles, two passes defended, and one interception. He does not have elite size, but if he tests well at the scouting combine, he could really rise on draft boards. McKinley plays with good instincts and situational awareness, and he has the requisite quickness to jump on a route and make a play on the ball. Oregon’s victory over the Buckeyes should put them on the map on the college football landscape, which means that McKinley will likely have more opportunities to display his talent to a national audience.
Nate Landman — ILB — Colorado
Landman could have entered the 2021 draft but opted to return for his senior season. There were a lot of questions surrounding his ability in coverage, but he is beginning to put those concerns to bed. This past week against fifth-ranked Texas A&M, Landman was all over the field, racking up ten tackles, two tackles for loss, and two passes defended. He is only 6’2”, 235 pounds, but he holds his own as a run defender and brings a level of veteran leadership to Colorado’s defense. His draft projection is all over the place, but if he continues to play at a high level, he could be worth a day two pick.
Jacob Copeland — WR — Florida
Florida has a lot of talent at wide receiver, but Copeland is the top target in that offense. Against USF on Saturday, Copeland caught 5 balls for 175 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a 75 yard reception in the first quarter that went for a score. The wide receiver class is expected to be deep once again next year, but if Copeland declares for the draft as an underclassman, he could find himself right up with the top names at the position. His explosiveness and efficiency will make him a hot commodity come draft time.
Other Week 2 Standouts
C.J. Verdell — RB — Oregon (161 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns)
Kaiir Elam — CB — Florida (3 tackles, 1 interception)
Jack Sorenson — WR — Miami (OH) (6 receptions, 97 yards, 1 touchdown)
Brock Purdy — QB — Iowa State
The Hawkeyes are no joke on defense, but Saturday was still a bad performance for Purdy. He was considered to be a potential day two draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but he decided to return for his senior season and try to improve his stock. Unfortunately, it is not working out well for him thus far, as he completed under 50 percent of his passes for a mere 138 yards, no touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. Purdy does not have the strongest arm in the world, which means that decision making is key for him. Sadly for him, he has struggled to cut down on the turnovers, and he is trending toward becoming a late round pick at best.
Breece Hall — RB — Iowa State
Hall had the expectations of being one of the top running backs in the country and a potential first round pick, but the first two weeks have been underwhelming, as he has averaged only 3.5 yards per carry on 39 carries this season. He also had a costly fumble inside the red zone against Iowa on Saturday. Hall is not the most explosive back, but he has always been a relatively efficient runner when you put into account the large workload he receives on a weekly basis. However, it has not been the case in the early portions of 2021. He will look to rebound against UNLV this weekend before the Cyclones begin conference play the following week.
Jaxson Kirkland — OT — Washington
Kirkland was expected to be the leader of a strong Washington offensive line, but their entire line has failed to live up to expectations. Kirkland struggled badly when faced against Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, displaying poor technique and sloppy footwork. While he improved in the second half, he still turned in a lousy performance overall. There is a decent amount of upside with Kirkland as a prospect, but Washington’s lack of creativity on offense has exposed issues up front. He still has a chance to become an early-round pick, but the arrow is pointing in the wrong direction.
Which prospects caught your eye in this past week's action? Who are you looking forward to seeing this weekend? Be sure to light up the comment section with your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers!